Alexander McNabb

Labour to let – why ‘workers stranded’ stories are set to rise

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Driving past the infamous Sonapour labour camp, you can only be struck by the To Let signs up on the accommodation blocks. A closer inspection reveals a large number of the blocks have gaps in the walls where window ACs should be. It’s almost quiet on the roads around the camp in the mornings and evenings, where once clouds of dust would be thrown up by manic bus drivers taking shortcuts or slinging their loads of tired workers around the sandy parking spaces around the cluster of blocks that sits north of the big graveyard (the roadsigns used to read ‘Labour Camp / Graveyard’ until someone finally worked out that this was a form of irony) on the Emirates Road.

We’re seeing the occasional ‘labourers stranded’ story in the local press still, although the worst of these recently, 700 labourers stranded with no money or resources after the Dubai-based construction company’s chairman fled, relates to labourers in Sharjah’s labour camp, not Sonapour.

A lot of the projects that still went ahead when the recession hit (or, to be more accurate, when Dubai stopped pushing its fingers in its ears and going lalalalala rather than accept a recession had hit) did so because they had gone too far to cancel – it simply made more sense to finish them than kill them off. Those projects are starting to be finished now and as each one does, it is likely that there will be precious little to replace it. So many of the construction workers who got a reprieve over the past couple of years are likely to get laid off and sent home.

That second wave of redundancies will see even more ‘To Let’ signs up in Sonapour. Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to another wave of ‘workers stranded’ stories.

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